Auros (auros) wrote,

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A recipe (artichokes with lemon-pignolia couscous) and an opera (The Bonesetter's Daughter)

Not necessarily in that order.

The Bonesetter's Daughter is fantastic. If you can get tickets, go see it. The music draws on lots of traditional and modern Chinese techniques and instruments, as well as some stylistic elements that actually reminded me of Philip Glass (complex sequences of quick notes, repeated in slight variations, creating an emotionally evocative wash of sound). Amy Tan did a great job stripping her novel down to its most essential elements. And a couple of the performers are almost superhuman -- the woman who has the smallest of the three main female roles is actually probably the most impressive vocalist; it'd be hard to class her as an alto or soprano, because she can range from a low-alto note to a high-soprano one in the course of a couple of measures of music.

Also, recipe! I made this last week. Serves 2, with a bit of couscous leftover for a snack or small dinner some other time. You can extend a small serving of the couscous with some steamed or sauteed veggies -- summer squash, onion, greens, etc.

Acquire three globe artichokes or "eurochokes" (the version that has a longer stem and less-thorny leaves). Slice the top inch or so off of the top, and trim the bottom inch off the stem (it'll likely be dried out and fibrous, though the rest of the stem is edible and almost as good as the heart). Put a steamer in a large pot, and enough water to fill to just barely below the steamer. Place artichokes stem-up in the steamer, and steam over medium-high heat for 45 minutes, or until the stem is tender (doesn't noticably resist having a fork poked into it).

Dipping sauce for artichokes, which can be made shortly before they come out: Put two tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of mustard, and three tablespoons of lemon juice (all approximate) in a small bowl or cup (something you can dip in). Microwave for 15 seconds. Stir to combine. Add taragon, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper, to taste. This should make enough for both 'chokes. If you have a little extra, it's good on the couscous too...

While the artichokes are steaming, get two or three handfuls of pine nuts and spread them out on a piece of aluminum foil. Put them in a toaster oven at 250°F until they start to brown and emit a pleasantly toasty aroma. I never really time this, so I'm not sure how long it takes. Maybe seven minutes? Don't let them get too dark -- when you take them out, the residual heat in them will finish toasting them quite adequately.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in the bottom of a medium pot, and saute a minced clove of garlic for a minute or so; don't turn the heat up too high, you don't want to brown/burn the butter. Add 1.25 cups of water with 0.25 cups of lemon juice, bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of couscous, the toasted pine nuts, and fine-ground black pepper, salt, tarragon, stir to mix, and let stand for at least ten minutes. When serving, add some grated parmesan (or even better, a grated aged gouda -- the aged-five-years stuff that's a rich caramel color is fantastic in this).

ETA: If you want to complexify the herbal notes, when we did the couscous with sauteed veggies, I added marjoram and sage to the veggies while cooking, and that came out nicely. They'd probably be good in the couscous and the dipping sauce as well.

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